As we continue our ‘Tithing on Trial’ series, we will evaluate the most common tithing arguments used to defend its practice.
Argument: Jesus is the High Priest and Should Receive a Tithe
If the Church wants to continue tithing as it happened in the Old Testament, there is an enormous obstacle to overcome with the absence of crucial elements including the Levites, the Mosaic law, the temple; and the Israelites. Tithing was used to support the infrastructure of Old Testament worship, but with that infrastructure replaced, supporters today try to find the missing link that connects the whole tithing system in the Old Testament with the infrastructure of the New Testament.
The priesthood of Jesus is used as a missing link that somehow transforms the practice of “tithing under the law” – To – “tithing under Grace”. Tithing had been contingent upon the Mosaic law, the temple, the Levites, & Israelite soil, but these links have been cut off; so we would need another type of bond to help graft tithing back into the chain of requirements. Unnaturally, Jesus’ priesthood gets linked in between the Law and Grace and creates a defective union between the old and the new so that tithing can be grafted in with the Church. This is what the bible calls putting new wine into old wineskins. (Matthew 9:17)
Most of the confusion about Jesus Priesthood and what it has to do with tithing is found in Hebrews 6:19-Hebrews 8:6 It would be good for you to read the passage before reading the rest of this post because there is a lot of information, but if not, i’ll do my best to fill you in.
Let’s get some context
Hebrews is written to a group of people who had trouble transitioning from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. Hence the name of the book is ‘Hebrews’. It is not called, ‘Greeks’, or ‘Gentiles’ since it was the Jews who had this problem. Although, i think it would serve well to rename the book – “Gentiles” today, since 2000 years later it seems the Gentile Church has a huge problem with this Law issue.
In a brief paraphrase, this passage in Hebrews uses Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20) to illustrate how the priesthood of Christ is greater than the Levitical priesthood.
Other Offerings Given to Priests
I think one of the major problems is that everyone focuses on tithing and overlooks all the other offerings for the priests. Here are some details on the overlooked offerings received by the priests.
- Twice a Year (Numbers 28)
– Two lambs, a tenth of an ephah of grain, a quarter-hin of wine
- Once a month (Numbers 28)
– Two bulls, three-tenths ephah of flour, half-hin of wine
– One ram, two-tenths ephah of flour, third-hin of wine
– Seven lambs, tenth ephah of flour, quarter-hin of wine
- Once Each Harvest (Nehemiah 10:38)
– One-tenth of Israel’s tithe from crops and animals (1%)
- Once a Year (Numbers 28)
– Two bulls, Three-tenths of an ephah of flour
– One ram, two-tenths of flour
– Seven lambs, one-tenth of flour
Question 1: If Jesus is the High Priest and deserves at least the same offerings that the earthly Priests were offered, then why do we stop at tithing?
Question 2: Why would Jesus Priesthood get 10% of our increase, when the Priests only received 1% of Israel’s increase? (Nehemiah 10:38)
Another thing most people do not understand is that the Israelites never tithed to the priests. They only tithed to the Levites and then the Levites were responsible for then tithing to the priests. So, not only did Israel not give to the priests, but the priests only received 1% of Israel’s increase.
Other symbolic Titles of Jesus
Regardless of my previous points, let’s say that Jesus’ position as a high priest is what compels us to keep the tradition of tithing going. In this case, you would have some explaining to do if we were to honor His offices found both in the Old and New Testaments. Let’s address a few other positions . . .
Jesus was named the . . .
- Lamb of God
- First Fruits of the Dead
- Passover Lamb
- High Priest
All the rituals found in the Old Testament that were meant to symbolize who Jesus was or what Jesus would do, have all been fulfilled. For some reason, people feel the need to resurrect a few of these ceremonies and continue to practice them.
I don’t know what reasons you may have for practicing tithing, but to practice it for the sake of honoring the Priesthood, would be comparable to raising an altar and sacrifice an animal in honor of the Lamb of God. I know it sounds ridiculous to compare tithing with slaying a lamb on an altar, but honoring any one of these rituals has no less severity over any of the others.
Looking forward, there is one task that Jesus asked us to perform in honor of him.
As Often as You Eat This Bread & Drink This Cup
Jesus didn’t ask us to commemorate anything except for his death.
Luke 22:19 states, “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.“
Between the meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek, there were two things offered – A tithe and also bread & wine. The ironic thing is that before Christ’s death He initiates a Church practice with his disciples, but specifically mentions one of the offerings and not the other. It was the Lord’s Supper that Christ asked us to perform in remembrance of him under the New Covenant. He did not say tithe, sacrifice a lamb, shed some blood, or offer your firstborn. Since the meeting between Abraham and Melchizedek is not what launched the Lord’s Supper into church practices, then why would tithing be added to Church practices?
Some people treat tithing as if we are to obey it in commemoration of Jesus’ priesthood just as we obey the Lord’s Supper in commemoration of his death. I’m not sure how the Lord’s Supper can be placed at the same table as tithing? Tithing was being practiced looking forward to the fulfillment of our final Priest, and the Lord’s Supper is being practiced while looking back at the fulfillment of his work on the cross.
There are so many symbolic practices of Christ found in the Old Testament. Just to name a few: Noah’s Ark, Manna, the Tabernacle, the Bronze Altar, the Mercy Seat, the Bronze snake, the Passover, Scapegoat, etc. All of these are just as symbolic of Christ as the tithe would be to Christ’s priesthood. . . yet, do you practice them?
As The High Priest, Jesus Set The Precedent
After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
What other example do you need? The High Priest of High Priests set up his ministry on earth through the freewill offerings of his followers. Pastors talk from the pulpit about the “order of Melchizedek” and continuation of tithing to our living high priest. We are quick to exemplify Abraham’s tithe to an earthly priest and yet overlook Mary, Joanna, & Chuza’s literal example of giving to Jesus. The ultimate question is why is Abraham giving to Melchizedek more significant than these women actually giving to Jesus?
If the argument here is about Jesus’ priesthood supporting the tithe then don’t use Moses, the Law, Abraham, or Melchizedek to illustrate when you have a clear example right in front of you. All this, if Jesus is actually the one we are trying to honor, unless we know it’s really not about Jesus but admittedly we know it’s about the money. In that case, I respect you for your honesty at least.
Our giving should be cheerful, free, liberal, and sacrificial and should look nothing like tithing to the priests. It should resemble how God gave to us when he gave his only Son. The Priesthood of Jesus is not the missing link that that enables tithing to be grated between the old and the new. This union is defective and can be illustrated in the example of new wine put into the old wineskins.
Luke 5:36-39 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.”
You Be the Judge
Now that the evidence has been given in this court of law, it is your turn to decide